Saiyuki Vol. #02 (of 12) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, June 07, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003
What They Say
The future of the world is at stake as Sanzo and his eccentric band of travelers continues west to prevent the revival of the Gyumaoh. But first, Sanzo must confront his past when he meets a demon killer, called Rikudo, with great Talismanic powers. Is he friend or foe? Next, a mysterious fortune teller predicts death for a member of their party. Whose future does he see? The answer may come when they battle Gyumaoh's son, Kougaiji. In the meantime, a group of imposters has been passing themselves off as the Sanzo Party. But with Sanzo's fame, comes Sanzo's burden. It's five more demon-filled episodes, journeying on where the first volume left off. Don't be left behind!
The journey westward continues here as we get to explore more of the characters pasts as well as various events that are a touch more current.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. With this being such a recent show, the dialogue was well done with lots of nicely placed pieces of directionality for both that and some of the action effects. Dialogue was crisp and clear throughout and we noted no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing starting in early 2000, the transfer here for Saiyuki is good, but has a few areas where it suffers a bit. Colors are vibrant, but there’s some cross coloration in a few of the more tightly animated areas. Aliasing is still present, but toned down from the problematic areas on the first volume. Things look very good overall, but there are just some things inherent in the print that may catch the eye of some folks.
The eye-catching covers continue here and continue to impress me. With the near painted manga look, Goku takes this cover in his full dress oufit and staff while bloodied and looking almost somber. The back cover provides screenshots and a decent summary of what to expect. On the plus side, volume numbering shows up on both the front cover and on the spine. The insert has taken the form of a mini-poster that that spreads out nicely to provide a very useful relationship tree for the characters in this sizeable cast.
The blood splotched aspect of the first menu is carried over here while below it is the nice animated sequence of the group moving along in their jeep to some of the series instrumental music. Episode selection (though no scene selection) is available right from the top while other selections take you to their submenus. Access times are nice and fast and we had no troubles getting around, though the black and red text selections made it awkward at times figuring out whether we were on a selection or not.
The extras are similar to the previous volume and that’s a good thing here. There’s a new batch of good production sketches here and the opening and ending sequences make another textless appearance. The much valued cultural background notes also make another appearance here with many pages describing various differences in cultures and how it plays out in the show itself. These continue to help add a nice dimension of understanding to some of the aspects of the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first installment of Saiyuki had us mildly interested, primarily due to the mixed technology/religion aspect of the show. We haven’t been too terribly interested in the past in various Chinese stories for some reason, and with this being based off of one, our interest is sort of borderline.
The plot continues to be the same as before. The group of heroes, charged with a mission, heads west towards India to meet their destiny. Each has their own reason for going there and along the way, as this is a long journey, various encounters happen. In that sense, this volume is little different than the first. The real differences come in the stories themselves, and there are definitely some amusing moments here and some solid action sequences.
The best aspect of this batch of episodes is the two-part one right at the beginning. Rolling into the next village they come across before they get completely soaked in the rain, the group sets up camp in the local inn and take in a fine dinner and some relaxing atmosphere. Gojyo of course tries to work his charm on the waitress with one of the best lines I’ve read; “It’s raining outside, why don’t we both get wet?” The rain sets up the mood that started on the road though, as they came across some slain demons with talismans thrown across them.
The talismans remind Sanzo quite a bit of his youth, and we go back in time to when he was with his master as a young lad, suffering at the hands of the monks and their dislike of him and his origins as well as the apparent common knowledge that Genjo wasn’t intent on really learning the way, but rather just serving the master who rescued him. These flashbacks haunt Sanzo but serve well in filling in some blanks.
These blanks are critical here of course, as we learn more of the rogue monk who has been slaying demons recently with the talismans. Known as Rikudo, the dark clad and decidedly foul tempered monk has arrived at the same in as he sensed demons nearby, which pretty much come in the form of Sanzo’s friends. It’s little surprise to the viewer, but causes disbelief on Sanzo’s part, that Rikudo is actually his old friend and only trusted one from his younger days named Shuei.
Through a mix of storytelling and flashbacks, we see the days when Genjo became something more than anyone expected due to the death of his master and how it affected everyone in the area. The ramifications apparently were worse for Shuei, who took to a particular talisman that has consumed him and given him the superior powers he now has. This leads into some very well done action sequences across the two episodes, with Goku busting out of his limiter at that.
The two part episode works really well in giving us more reasons to like Sanzo and understanding his mindset. Rikudo also provides an excellent early villain that manages to strike close to home for Sanzo, which gives hope that future character-specific villains will also perform as well when we get to them.
Another episode that worked well for me was the last one here, a nicely self-contained piece that you can imagine happening easily. With Sanzo and his group being fairly known now as they travel the land, the imposters start trying to cash in on their success. Upon arriving at one particularly nice village, the group is treated like royalty and given almost anything they want. When an imposter group shows up and accuses the real ones of being fakes, Sanzo and company are thrown into jail. The results are somewhat predictable of course, as it’s a somewhat standard episode for a lot of series, but it’s just very well done with lots of humor.
Saiyuki hasn’t won me over as the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it’s an amusing way to pass an evening. I like most of the characters and it’s definitely a tongue in cheek interpretation of the source material. After my bad experiences with the dub the last time around, we didn’t check that this time, so that probably added to me liking this a bit more as well. Saiyuki’s premise does feel like one of the more overused ones, but they’re doing a decent job of making the job enjoyable while a lesser show would probably be dragging by this point already.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Full-color fold-out poster,Saiyuki trailer,Production sketches,Cultural background notes,Clean opening and closing animation
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2